NTSB Identification: DFW06TA054
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Thursday, January 12, 2006 in Eagle Pass, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 07/31/2006
Aircraft: Aerospatiale AS350-B2, registration: N840BP
Injuries: 1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

The 1,672 hour commercial pilot departed the operations base near the border on a routine patrol of the Rio Grande River dividing the two countries. Upon reaching the limits of his search area he reversed course to return to home base. On the return leg he decided to search an area where he had noticed two law enforcement airboats operating north of the port of entry. The pilot reported on the Pilot/Operator Accident Report Form (NTSB Form 6120.1/2), that he recalled seeing two sets of power lines on the outbound leg of his patrol. After crossing the first set of power lines and locating the airboats he began a turn to orbit the boats. The pilot added that when he looked up and saw that he was about to hit the second set of wires, he instinctly initiated a cyclic climb to clear the wires; however, the maneuver was initiated too late and the tail rotor impacted the wires resulting in the separation of the tail rotor gear box, tail rotor assembly, and vertical fin. The pilot managed to keep the helicopter in controlled flight and elected to execute an autorotation to a clearing. The helicopter made a successful autorotation and landed upright in the middle of the river, 853 feet from the point of the wire strike. The helicopter came to rest in about 3 feet of water, and the pilot performed an emergency engine shutdown and egressed through the pilot door with assistance from the crews of the airboats.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from the unmarked transmission lines. A factor was the pilot's diverted attention while monitoring ground activity.

Full narrative available

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